Technology

The government is considering a “broadband tax” as experts call for transparency on NBN funding

Dominic Powell /

SME owners could be seeing a price increases for monthly internet costs, as the government looks to introduce legislation for a new monthly fee for for users of the National Broadband Network (NBN).

ItNews reports the government has completed consultation for its Telecommunications Reform Package, which was drafted in December last year. The draft legislation was open for submissions until February 3, and these are currently under review.

Read more: NSW businesses left without internet after week long Exetel outage: Expert says it’s the worst he’s seen in 21 years

The package seeks to introduce a minimum $7.09 monthly charge for users of fixed-line “superfast” NBN services, and a small number of users on Telstra’s Velocity Network and TPG’s fibre-to-the-basement service.

This fee would fall under a newly established Regional Broadband Scheme, intended to raise funds to cover the costs of the NBN’s regional and remote satellite and fixed wireless services.

The levy would be charged on to retail service providers, who could then in turn potentially pass this on to customers. In a statement issued alongside the consultation’s initial announcement, Communications Minister Mitch Fifield said the legislation would provide “a strong structural framework for superfast broadband”.

The Bill will also look to amend multiple parts of the Telecommunications Act, and includes provisions to improve the “competitive framework” for superfast broadband providers, and improve the NBN infrastructure via a Statutory Infrastructure Provider (SIP) regime.

This regime will require NBN Co and in some circumstances other carriers to provided wholesale services upon receiving a “reasonable request” from a retail service provider.

“This will ensure that all premises will be guaranteed an infrastructure connection and retail service providers will have access to wholesale services supplied on that infrastructure,” the Department of Communication and the Arts said in the draft’s explanatory notes.

This guarantee is needed, believes IT expert and Combo founder David Markus, who told SmartCompany NBN services for business were a “scarcity”.

Markus has seen multiple cases of business customers experiencing trouble when attempting to get access to NBN services, but notes he’s seen fewer problems in recent times. Despite this, he says NBN for business is “a risk” due to sub-par Service Level Agreements (SLA), which offer customer support.

“SLAs for some NBN services when they drop out are not business-grade,” Markus said.

“If you can’t get someone out there to fix it within two hours it can be a risk for your business.”

While Markus concedes the NBN is beneficial in the long term and “has got to be funded”, he believes the government should be more transparent about it.

“It has got to be funded, but the question is what’s the model for funding? The NBN is something we need, and we were always going to pay for it,” he says.

“It would be good to get some transparency and honesty around it, and some more information about how it’s getting to businesses.”

Submissions for the consultation are now closed, and the results are currently under review.

SmartCompany contacted the Department of Communications and Senator Fifield but did not receive a response prior to publication.

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Dominic Powell

Dominic Powell is the lead reporter at StartupSmart.

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